Thursday, August 9, 2018


A Post by Karissa Laurel
Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m excited to be sharing my inaugural post as a new contributing member of Across the Board. I look forward to appearing here semi-regularly with posts mainly focusing on fantasy and its sub-genre iterations.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Karissa Laurel. I live in North Carolina with my kid, my husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of my favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, super heroes, and Star Wars. I can quote Princess Bride verbatim. When it’s warm, you’ll find me near water--on a boat or paddling kayaks. In the winter, I’ll be cuddled up with a book, or if I’m very, very lucky, you’ll find me on a ski slope.

I write primarily fantasy for adults and young adults, and I’m the author of The Norse Chronicles, an
urban fantasy series based on Norse Mythology from Red Adept Publishing. I’m also the author of
The Stormbourne Chronicles, a young adult epic fantasy series (with steampunk elements) from
Evolved Publishing.

Most recently, my magical realism short story, A Handful of Seeds, has been selected to appear in an upcoming young adult anthology called WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES. The anthology from Goldenjay Books, a young adult imprint of Blue Crow Publishing, releases on October 31, 2018, and Pre-Ordering is currently available (Links included at the end of this post).

The WICKED SOUTH anthology is what I’m here to talk about today. I’d like to introduce the editors,
NYT Bestselling Author, Emily Colin, and acclaimed author, Katie Rose Guest Pryal.

Hi, Emily and Katie. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about WICKED SOUTH:
SECRETS AND LIES. First off, I’d like to start by asking you both to tell us a little about

Hi Karissa! Thank you so much for having us on your blog today. We are old friends who
first met in a fateful university fiction-writing course many years ago. In this course,
the professor teased us both terribly because we enjoyed—and wrote—stories that
weren’t (in his dubious opinion) literary enough.
He gave us both nicknames: Emily’s was “Anne Rice.” Katie’s was “Soap Opera.”

We were both horrified.

In retrospect, had we landed jobs writing like Anne Rice or for soap operas, today we’d be happy as
clams. But when you’re nineteen or twenty and you want to be a writer, and being a good writer has
a very narrow definition set by a stodgy teacher whose good opinion you are desperately seeking, an
experience like ours can turn you from your path.

Indeed, we both stopped writing fiction after that course—for years and years.

And then, we drifted back to fiction. And one day, on the phone, Emily said to Katie, “Young adult
anthology!” And Katie said to Emily, “Great idea!” And we said to each other lots of words that brought
this seed of an idea to life.

I’m particularly curious to know why y’all decided to develop a specifically young adult
anthology, and what inspired you to choose such an intriguing theme of secrets and lies?

Emily: The day that the idea for the anthology was born, Katie and I were chatting and we both
realized that in addition to writing fiction for adults, we’d both begun writing YA lit. This discovery
inspired us to create an anthology with a YA focus—which is especially exciting for us because,
in this first volume in the WICKED SOUTH series, our own YA stories are finding their way into
the world.

Katie: We gave a lot of thought to a theme because we do want to have the WICKED SOUTH
anthologies be a series (fingers crossed). While the word “wicked” can have negative connotations,
if you look in the dictionary (such as the OED), there are also less negative ones. Wicked can mean
“playfully mischievous,” or even, in more recent slang, it can mean “excellent,” or “wonderful.” While
this anthology features young adult stories of several genres, all of the stories are playful, or tricky, or

Why secrets and lies? The back cover says it best:

At the heart of each story in this genre-crossing collection lies a secret. A boy who is not a boy at all,
a neighbor with a mysterious identity, a tortured student with a list that isn’t what it seems, a girl who
abandoned the person she used to be at the bottom of a river.
Conflict and possibility are embedded in a secret’s very nature…betrayal and conspiracy are encoded
in its DNA. Secrets can transform. They can alienate, anger, or inspire.
One thing is for sure: They make a great story.

When I read your call for submissions, it never crossed my mind to send in a story that wasn’t
somehow fantastical or magical, since that’s primarily what I write, but the stories in this
anthology are not all of one genre, are they?

We wanted the stories to be connected by the theme—”secrets and lies”—and not by genre. Indeed,
there is as much realistic fiction as there is paranormal in this book. (That said, both of our stories
have a supernatural angle!) We wanted to show that good storytelling crosses genres, and that a
strong theme can unite a group of diverse stories.

My story, A Handful of Seeds, was inspired by a meme posted on Twitter that said “Do not
worry about your contradictions—Persephone is both floral maiden and queen of death. You,
too, can be both.” In addition to editing the anthology, you both have contributed stories to
WICKED SOUTH. Can you tell me a little about what inspired your stories?

Emily: Sometimes, when I’m between writing projects, I seek inspiration in prompts—you never know
where they’ll lead you. On this particular occasion, I came across a writing prompt that read simply,
“A playground at midnight.” Though the playground in question doesn’t find its way into my story until
near the end, it was the inspiration for my characters—and the universe I built around them. I didn’t
write the story with secrets or lies in mind...but when I got to the end, I realized both were intrinsic to
the world I’d created.

Katie: A while ago, I started writing a novel, the first of a series, about my a group of kids that strongly
resemble my sons. When I began the series, I knew I wanted to write something that my kids could
read and would want to read, something set in the present day, featuring heroes like them. When
Emily and I conceived of WICKED SOUTH, I wanted to write a novella that was set in the universe
of that novel, but that could stand alone. So I wrote a prequel to the novel series. And that’s all I’m
going to say about it, otherwise I’ll risk giving something away.

Thanks to you both for taking the time to talk with me about this anthology. Here’s a bit more
info about the editors of WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES

Emily Colin is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Memory Thief and The Dream Keeper’s
Daughter. Her diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show,
hauling fish at the Florida Keys’ Dolphin Research Center, roaming New York City as an itinerant
teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and serving as the associate
director of DREAMS of Wilmington, a nonprofit dedicated to immersing youth in need in the arts.
A 2017 Pitch Wars mentor, she is the 2017 recipient of the North Carolina Sorosis Award for
Excellence in Creative Writing and the 2018 recipient of the North Carolina Greater Foundation of
Women’s Clubs Lucy Bramlett Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Originally from
Brooklyn, she lives in Wilmington, NC, with her family.
Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT (2015), LOVE AND ENTROPY (2016), CHASING CHAOS (2016),  HOW TO STAY (2017), and FALLOUT GIRL (2018), all from Blue Crow Books. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).
As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late,
lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in
creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship.
Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford
University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now teaches creative writing
and works as a writing coach and developmental editor when she’s not writing her next book.

WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES is an anthology featuring young adult stories by authors from
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Contributors are New York Times Bestselling author Emily
Colin, Elizabeth DeVido, award-winning author Lauren Faulkenberry, Amy Hyatt Fonseca, Lauren Fulcher,
award-winning author Robin Kirk, John Klekamp, Karissa Laurel, and Katie Rose Guest Pryal.

A portion of the proceeds from WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES will be donated to benefit literacy
programs at El Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina.

The editors hope  that this anthology be the first of many in the Wicked South series (and they plan for
each successive volume to benefit a different worthy cause).

Look for WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES, available for pre-order now, and available for
purchase where all books are sold on Halloween, October 31, 2018.


Mary Fan said...

Welcome, Karissa! Great interview! And great anthology ;-). Can't wait for the rest of the world to read it!

Karissa Laurel said...

Thanks Mary and I'm so excited to be part of the ATB gang!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Bienvenida!! And congrats on your story!

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Welcome aboard Karissa! I so enjoyed your interview and looking forward to the release of the anthology in October! We seem to have coffee, dark chocolate, and a love for writing in common!

Brenda St John Brown said...

Welcome aboard and loved this interview! Looking forward to getting you know you here!

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